Words from Kenya

The abject failure of NGO and government led peace meetings

NCIC and Northern Rangeland Trust facilitate an inter-ethnic dialogue (peace meeting) between Turkana, Samburu and Somali communities in Mlango, Burat Ward, Isiolo County, on 21st Sept 2020

During the last 15 years I have witnessed countless peace meetings being held in various parts of northern Kenya; between conflicting groups of herders and between conflicting communities. People never tire of having them yet there is very little evidence that they are ever effective.

Peace meetings are a great selling point for NGO’s and government bodies though, who are hoping to raise funds from donors. They involve various expenses including (but by no means limited to) catering, transport, accommodation and even conference facilities. They look great in NGO pamphlets. Glossy pictures of locals sitting around in a circle somewhere in the bush, the NGO’s local rep standing in the middle talking sense into these poor misguided people. Because of course a photogenic, age/sex/identity appropriate youngster is going to sort out problems in an afternoon that these groups or communities haven’t been able to sort out themselves in months or years.

It should be obvious, even to the money hungry NGO/GO’s and their donors, that you are never going to enforce peace from outside without some form of effective policing. And of course, effective policing is largely absence from most of the northern half of Kenya.

Without policing any peace initiative needs to be driven from the ground, it must come from the people themselves, they have to want it. That means they have to really want peace, not just want the cup of tea and the t-shirt that comes with the peace meeting. Without a real drive and desire for the violence to end, by the people involved, these meetings are just photo ops.

Peace meetings are in general nothing more than a box ticking exercise for NGO’s and an abdication of responsibility for government bodies. They hold the meeting, task a group of elders to make everything right and then leave. We should not let NGO’s or the government get off so lightly by buying into these meetings. We should hold these bodies, that have been funded to help maintain peace, to account. Peace is not measured by how many peace meetings you have it is measured by how safe it is to live in one of these communities, how often your livestock is stolen and how many days you have without the sound of gunfire.

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